Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Switzerland and Austria: Vol. XVI. 1876–79.

Switzerland: Alps, The

The Alps

By Samuel Rogers (1763–1855)

(From Italy)

WHO first beholds those everlasting clouds,

Seedtime and harvest, morning, noon, and night,

Still where they were, steadfast, immovable,—

Those mighty hills, so shadowy, so sublime,

As rather to belong to heaven than earth—

But instantly receives into his soul

A sense, a feeling that he loses not,

A something that informs him ’t is an hour

Whence he may date henceforward and forever.

To me they seemed the barriers of a world,

Saying, Thus far, no farther! and as o’er

The level plain I travelled silently,

Nearing them more and more, day after day,

My wandering thoughts my only company,

And they before me still,—oft as I looked,

A strange delight was mine, mingled with fear,

A wonder as at things I had not heard of!

And still and still I felt as if I gazed

For the first time!—Great was the tumult there,

Deafening the din, when in barbaric pomp

The Carthaginian on his march to Rome

Entered their fastnesses. Trampling the snows,

The war-horse reared; and the towered elephant

Upturned his trunk into the murky sky,

Then tumbled headlong, swallowed up and lost,

He and his rider.
Now the scene is changed;

And o’er the Simplon, o’er the Splugen winds

A path of pleasure. Like a silver zone

Flung about carelessly, it shines afar,

Catching the eye in many a broken link,

In many a turn and traverse as it glides;

And oft above and oft below appears,

Seen o’er the wall by him who journeys up,

As if it were another, through the wild

Leading along he knows not whence or whither.

Yet through its fairy-course, go where it will,

The torrent stops it not, the rugged rock

Opens and lets it in; and on it runs,

Winning its easy way from clime to clime

Through glens locked up before.—Not such my path!

The very path for them that dare defy

Danger, nor shrink, wear he what shape he will;

That o’er the caldron, when the flood boils up,

Hang as in air, gazing and shuddering on

Till fascination comes and the brain turns!

The very path for them, that list, to choose

Where best to plant a monumental cross,

And live in story like Empedocles;

A track for heroes, such as he who came,

Ere long, to win, to wear the iron crown;

And (if aright I judge from what I felt

Over the Drance, just where the Abbot fell,

Rolled downward in an after-dinner’s sleep)

The same as Hannibal’s. But now ’t is passed,

That turbulent Chaos; and the promised land

Lies at my feet in all its loveliness!

To him who starts up from a terrible dream,

And lo, the sun is shining, and the lark

Singing aloud for joy, to him is not

Such sudden ravishment as now I feel

At the first glimpses of fair Italy.